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Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Puerto Rican Politico Gets Four Years in Stir

(CN) - A former Puerto Rican senator and the former head of the largest private security firm in Puerto Rico were each sentenced to four years in federal prison for bribery.

Former Senator Hector Martinez Maldonado, 43, also was fined $17,500.

Juan Bravo Fernandez, former head of Ranger American, was fined $175,000.

Both were convicted of bribery related to federal funds. Fernandez also was convicted of conspiracy.

"Former Senator Martinez and Mr. Fernandez engaged in a scheme to exchange cash and services for legislation favorable to Mr. Fernandez's business interests," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in a statement.

Prosecutors said Maldonado and Senator Jorge de Castro Font accepted a first-class, all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas to watch a championship boxing match at ringside in exchange for pushing two bills through the Puerto Rican Senate that would benefit Fernandez's business interests. Hotel rooms in Miami were provided for the return trip.

From 2004 to 2008, Fernandez also made numerous cash payments to Font, through personal assistants, prosecutors said

Trial evidence showed that on March 2, 2005, the day Fernandez paid for the boxing tickets, Maldonado submitted one of the bills for consideration by the Puerto Rico Senate.

On April 21, 2005, Fernandez used his personal credit card to reserve a hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The reservation was made the day after Maldonado presided over a Public Safety Committee hearing for one of the two bills, at which Fernandez was the only representative from the private security industry to testify. Immediately after the hearing, Maldonado authorized a committee report in support of Bravo Fernandez's bill.

Evidence also showed that on May 17, 2005, the day after the three men returned from their trip to Las Vegas, Maldonado and Font both voted for one of Fernandez's bills in the senate. The next day, the other bill was approved in the Public Safety Committee; it was passed by the senate a week later.

Font pleaded guilty in January 2009 to 20 counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion. He was sentenced in May 2011 to five years in federal prison.

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